Eye on the Prize

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Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Diana was en route to do a little wedding dress shopping when she received a call from a prominent mafia member. Her curiosity was aroused, and she couldn’t wait to find out what type of lead he had for her today. The two developed a friendly work relationship.

.

She first met Dom on assignment to write about the vandalism to his home in South Philadelphia. Certain individuals shattered his windows and dared to brag about the crime. It was unknown if the crime was mafia-related; therefore, Diana assured Dom that she would downplay the incident as juvenile mischief with no motive. She intended to draw attention away from the mafia to avoid retaliation in an already tense circumstance.

Dom was pleased with Diana’s professionalism and thankful for her diplomacy in handling the delicate situation. The young woman had spunk and was drop-dead gorgeous to boot. She informed him that her job was to provide the public with a story while keeping their safety top priority.

Her determination and honesty impressed him, and he was satisfied with the results of the published article. Dom made a point of following her work, and it pleased him to watch her move up the ranks. Her latest piece about the city official abusing his power with sexual harassment was brilliant. Diana showed him no mercy and did not relent until he was relieved of his position. The bastard deserved to be nailed to the wall. She was no pushover by any means but exhibited enough intelligence to know when to fight and when to walk away.

After their initial meeting, Dom reached out to Diana when he needed a story reported. He fed her leads since he trusted her to convey the right message to the public while maintaining class concerning himself and his cohorts. There weren’t too many people to be trusted in his line of work; however, he knew she was dependable. Dom had a particular project in mind.

Diana answered enthusiastically on the second ring. “Dom, it is wonderful to hear from you! What can I do for you today?”

“Hey, Diana. Congratulations on your recent article. That was some terrific reporting on your part.”

“Thanks, Dom. I needed to expose him for the piece of shit that he was and not allow him to hide behind his power. I am certain that he was not one of your favorites.”

“That prick got exactly what he deserved. Well done. I was calling to see if you could arrange for your boyfriend, Marco, to give me a call. Would you mind passing along the message?”

“Why in the world would you want to speak to Marco? Is everything okay?”

“Yea, don’t sound so shocked. It turns out I need some investment help. Since you and I have a nice working relationship, I figured I would give him a shot.”

“That is a nice gesture. I had no idea you knew anything about Marco or his career.”

“I know much more than you think. It’s my job to know these things.”

Dom chose not to reveal that he had some money needing laundering. He made a small fortune on the internet black market

selling methamphetamines, Fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids. It was a known fact that millennials dying from drug overdoses were rising at an alarming rate these days. The cost of college was out of control and unaffordable for most people. Student loans were suffocating graduates, and it was hard to make a decent income with so much debt. Finding a job was becoming a hopeless challenge.

Most people would argue that he was shameful to take advantage of someone else’s despair, but Dom made a tremendous amount of money selling drugs. If he had a change of heart and chose to stop selling drugs to them, then someone else would step up to the plate in his place. He wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if he wore his heart on his sleeve. The drug business was no place for a man with morals or a conscience.

Dom cleaned money in the past by getting paid in denominations less than $10,000 so that transactions were not reported to the Federal government. Unfortunately, the government realized that individuals were flying under the radar. As a result, they cracked down on the rules, so he needed to find another avenue to make his illegal money legal again. He was positive that Diana had no idea about Marco’s illicit dealings. It was not Dom’s place to enlighten her; however, he would use the information to his advantage.

“Thank you, Dom. I appreciate you reaching out to me. It was thoughtful of you.”

“Don’t mention it, hon. You always take care of me, so I want to return the favor. You know how to reach me, so make sure Marco gives me a call at his earliest convenience.”

“I sure will, Dom. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

She ended the call and felt her stomach flip and her insides shiver. Diana was uncommonly nervous for Marco to handle Dom’s affairs in any capacity. His world was full of corruption, and this was no ordinary guy. As an influential and honored member of the mafioso or

Cosa Nostra, he was a deadly man, and she needed to remind Marco not to take this lightly. The members were faithful to the mafia family, and betrayal was punishable by death. Members of the mafia have a duty to the Cosa Nostra above all else, including their wives and kids.

To make things worse, Marco was an outsider, a civilian. The family would not protect him, and there would be no reason to trust him. He would be second-guessed and under constant scrutiny.

Respect needed to be earned and was not a given. Until they gained confidence in his dependability and character, it was wise to look over both shoulders.

Marco found that it was necessary to have a physical office to have a business in Delaware. He moved into a 900 square foot office space in Claymont, Delaware, for $900 per month, including utilities. Once he was rolling in the dough, Marco planned on moving his Delaware office closer to the beach. Currently, he based his choice of location on cost efficiency.

There was a great deal to accomplish. One of his primary goals was to target the no-good low life developer responsible for the faulty wiring in the trailer fire that ultimately killed his mother. There are various opinions on revenge and whether it is justified. Marco had a couple of options. He could find the man responsible for his mother’s death and forgive him for his sins. Over his dead body! The man didn’t have a remorseful bone in his body with his pathetic apology to his grandmother.

Seeking revenge was the second option. As much as Marco wanted him dead, it was not a practical choice. An eye for an eye would not make him feel better or bring his mother back to him. He needed to live with whatever decision he made, so payback was a more viable option.

Through some research, Marco found out that Full Circle Developers, led by John Barron, continued to make fast money without regard to safety or quality of work. A quick buck was the only thing that concerned him regardless of who became hurt in the process. Marco was determined to find a way to bankrupt the company. There was plenty of time for revenge. He recently offered the company a fast loan for the apartment building project they were beginning in northeast Philadelphia. An article in the paper stated that the developer was thinking of putting the project on hold due to lending problems. Banks were not lending as freely for apartment buildings because the inventory on their books was too high.

Marco took the initiative to set up a meeting with the owner.

Although John would be paying a higher interest rate, it was a no

brainer to take advantage of Marco’s financing. During the luncheon, Marco casually asked about his old trailer park. “I heard your company worked on a trailer park in the seventies. I think it was called Malibu Estates.”

The owner let out a big, boisterous laugh. “Oh my God, talk about a blast from the past. I forgot about that eyesore. It was my first development, and I wore tools back in those days.”

Marco continued, “I read about a fire there that devastated a family. A woman died. It seemed to be caused by faulty wiring.”

The coy son of a bitch didn’t even flinch at the comment. “I never heard about the cause of the fire, but I assume that it was due to carelessness on the part of the trailer owner.”

“How so? Maybe you cut corners?”

I am sure all builders cut corners when they can. I had a friend do the electrical work for me. He assured me that he knew what he was doing. I take people on their word, so it was good enough for me.

You win some, and you lose some. At the end of the day, I have to put food on the table for my family.”

Marco was trying his hardest to maintain his composure. He wanted nothing more than to reach across the table and grab John’s throat and squeeze until his face turned purple, and his eyes bulged out of his head due to lack of oxygen. Marco would continue to apply pressure until blood vessels broke in John’s eyes. Instead of giving in to his strong impulses, he changed the subject and closed the deal for the loan.

Once Marco signed the papers, he stood up and said that he had another meeting to attend. They shook hands. The owner had one year to pay him back. Marco hoped with every fiber of his being that the loan would default. He brought up the trailer park as a last-ditch

effort to see if John possessed any integrity at all. It was apparent that he had no morals and no empathy.

Diana swung by her parents’ house to pick up her mother on the way to the bridal boutique. She was a half-hour early and stopped inside to say hello to her dad. Drew’s face lit up whenever he saw his baby girl.

“What a nice surprise. I had no idea you would be stopping in.

Your mother is upstairs getting ready. She should be ready in a few minutes.”

“Perfect. I had to come in and say hello to my daddy. After all, I am daddy’s little girl.”

“Oh boy, how much is this going to cost me?”

“Very funny, daddy. You are always the comedian. How are you?” “I can’t complain. Things are going well, so life is good. What’s

Marco up to today?”

“He is working as usual. I will see him tonight after dress shopping.”

“You work a lot of hours too. Ambition is a good thing.”

“I know, but I do miss him sometimes, and I don’t want to wish my whole life away to get to the days that I can see him.”

Drew sat down next to Diana and put his arm around her shoulders. “Everything will work out the way it should, and someday both of you won’t have to put in long hours. Hang in there, sweetheart.”

“You always make me feel better, daddy. Thank you.”

Kait walked into the room with a big smile on her face. She was so happy to go dress shopping with her daughter.

“Are you ready to go, dear?”

“Yes, I was just catching up with dad. We better get going so that everyone else isn’t waiting.”

Kait was full of exhilaration to share this special day with Diana and talked a mile a minute on the car ride to the bridal shop.

“You have always been my princess, Diana. It is hard to believe that the day has arrived to shop for wedding gowns. Where does the time go?”

“I feel like I have waited for this day my entire life and dreaming about it for years.”

“Girls always dream about meeting their Prince Charming and living happily ever after. Is Marco your Prince Charming?”

“He seems to be in almost every way, although sometimes I feel that he is keeping things from me.”

Kait looked concerned. “Don’t tell me that you think he is cheating on you?”

Diana adamantly shook her head no. “No, if I thought that he was, we would not be going dress shopping right now. I am trying to say that I have a feeling that he doesn’t share everything with me.”

Kait let out a sigh of relief. “Well, it is reassuring to hear that you don’t suspect him of cheating. If he did, we would have to turn this car around and run him over. In all seriousness, you have the rest of your lives to share with each other. I wouldn’t draw any hasty conclusions.”

“Does dad confide in you?”

“We have been married for many years, so it is hard to compare. I am sure in the beginning we were still trying to get to know each other. It takes time to build trust. The longer you are together, the more you share.”

“Thanks, mom. I appreciate the advice. I’m sure I am overreacting.

I don’t want to spoil the festive mood so let’s talk about shopping. I see the store up ahead.”

Two of Diana’s friends and her cousin were waiting inside the store when they arrived. Everyone shared hugs and kisses and was ready to sit back and enjoy the show. Kait and Diana regularly watched Say Yes to the Dress. Now it was Diana’s turn, and the girls could barely contain her excitement.

The boutique designated a personal assistant to the group to tend to the future bride’s every need. She spoke to Diana to get a sense of a specific style in mind for her gown. Diana was open to trying on a variety of dresses; however, she gave the assistant her spending budget. The assistant showed them a section to pick out a few gowns while she added her picks. The gowns were heavy to maneuver on the rack.

The dressing room was ready with several gowns to try on, and it was officially time for the festivities to begin. Diana was excited to see how the dresses would look on her. The assistant stayed to assist her in getting in and out of each gown. She felt like a fairytale princess and was thoroughly enjoying the special treatment. Usually, she would feel uncomfortable with being pampered, but this was her time to shine. Her loved ones were anxiously sitting in the waiting area to be the first to see Diana waltz out in a gown. Since she was not one to disappoint, she quickly undressed to begin the process of dazzling the group.

The first two gowns did not get a huge reaction from the group. They were nice enough, but they did not have that wow factor. The next dress was better than the first two but still wasn’t the one. Diana never realized how exhausting trying on dresses could be, but it was all a part of finding the perfect gown. Diana was a little dismayed and began to wonder if she would look good in any of the gowns.

The assistant could see Diana’s disappointment and doubt and reassured her that she would find her gown with a little patience. She helped her try on gown number four. Diana turned to glance at herself in the mirror and was delighted with the woman looking back at her. She looked positively stunning, and the beautiful crystals made her eyes sparkle. Seeing her reflection transformed her dreams into a reality. Now, it was time to see how the others felt about the gown. She was holding her breath in anticipation, knowing that this was the dress of her dreams. What if the others didn’t feel the same way? Honestly, no one’s opinion mattered at this point since she had already made up her mind. Her concern was short- lived. As soon as she stepped into the room, all conversations ended abruptly as the girls gasped in delight.

Diana teared up and began to cry as tears of joy ran down her face. The dress was so comfortable and fit her perfectly. She looked stunning, and the gown accentuated her curves. All four women agreed that the fourth gown was the one and began to cheer. Her mother cried tears of joy. The thought of taking off the wedding dress made Diana’s heart sink. It wasn’t fair that she would only get to wear it for one day.

Her mother interrupted her thoughts. “Diana, I believe you have found your dress. You look breathtakingly beautiful, and that is before hair and makeup. I would love nothing more than to buy the dress for you.”

“Thank you, mom. I love it so much that I can picture myself walking down the aisle in it. You don’t have to buy it for me. I have a job and saved some money.”

“I know you do, but your father and I discussed it and decided that we genuinely wanted to buy your wedding dress.”

“Thank you, mom. It is very kind of both of you.”

Diana’s perfect dress actually found her with the help of the stylist.

It was difficult to describe the emotions she was feeling at that moment, but it was like discovering the love of her life. She never wanted to let go. Diana was relieved and gladly accepted a celebratory glass of champagne. In all of the excitement, she completely forgot about the veil. While she was sipping her drink, the assistant placed a veil in her hair. It was an exquisite tiara with crystals in a floral design and was classy and not overdone. The different crystals caught the light at many different angles and were beautiful. It was the icing on the cake.

After some persuasion, Diana took off the wedding dress and put her casual clothes back on. There was no comparison. She transformed from a princess to an ordinary woman. After they finished their drink and settled the bill, it was time to return home.

The day was long and exhausting but extremely successful. Who knew dress shopping could be so much work?

Diana arrived home after taking her mother home. She was looking forward to sharing a late dinner with her love. Marco prepared steaks, baked macaroni, and Caesar salad, knowing Diana would be famished after shopping all day. He knew her well enough to have a big glass of wine, ready and waiting when she walked through the door. It was satisfying to come home with him waiting for her. Lately, they both had extended workdays and grabbed dinner on the go as a result. She kicked off her shoes and sat down to relax while sipping her wine.

“Thanks for being so thoughtful and waiting for me, Marco. You must be starving. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have you home, especially to finally spend quality time together.”

Marco bent down to kiss Diana. “Since we pass each other by like strangers in the night, I decided it was time to make it happen. We should eat before the steaks get cold. I know you are ravenous from all of the shopping.”

“It smells delicious.” Diana cut a piece of steak. It was so tender and full of flavor. She was too busy to find the time to eat all day, so the meal Marco prepared hit the spot. The Caesar salad complimented the steak and was just as flavorful. The baked macaroni was heavenly with plenty of cheese. There was also warm bread slathered in butter. Marco knew her weaknesses and made sure that he spoiled her thoroughly. It took minimal effort to show her how much he loved her. The meal was a winner and very delicious. Their bellies were full, and she was relieved that there was no dessert.

When he stopped chewing long enough to hold a conversation, Marco asked about her day. “So, did you find your dress?”

Diana smiled coyly. “Maybe.”

He returned her smile. “That is definitely a yes. I can see it in your smile. Would you like to describe it to me?”

“Not at all. It is bad luck. No matter how hard you try, this girl isn’t going to break. I am afraid you will have to wait and see for yourself when you marry me.”

“It’s not bad luck to describe it, just to see it. I will bide my time and be surprised along with everyone else. I’m sure you will look ravishing.”

After dinner, they lingered at the table to polish off the bottle of wine. Both of them were relaxed and feeling happy. It was the perfect time for Diana to talk to Marco about her conversation with Dom. She didn’t want to spoil the mood, but it was a conversation that needed to happen. Nervously she cleared her throat before speaking.

“Marco, interestingly enough, I received a call from Dom today on the way to pick up my mom. You know, the same Dom who I wrote an article about regarding the vandalization of his home.”

Marco answered, “You mean Teflon Dom?”

“Yes, the one and only. I thought Dom was calling to give me a lead, as he does periodically. Imagine my surprise to find out that he wasn’t even calling for me. He asked me to have you contact him at your earliest convenience tomorrow.”

“Maybe he wants me to join his crew.”

“Very funny, Marco. I hope you realize that this is no laughing matter. Somehow, he is aware of your investment business and needs your help with a project. You can rest assured I didn’t tell him about your line of work. He is a powerful man with resources at his fingertips. I have concerns about you conducting business with him.”

Marco reached across the table and held Diana’s hand in his own as he caressed it with his thumb. Then he lifted her delicate hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly. “Sweetheart, there is no need to overanalyze the situation. He simply wants to talk to a professional.”

“Listen, this is no time to jest. I need you to be serious and understand that Dom is connected, and it is critical to proceed with caution. I am in no way implying that you would have anything but good intentions, but he isn’t someone you want to betray. You need to remember who you are dealing with at all times and be sensible.”

“Babe, I honestly appreciate your concern and value your advice. I consider myself warned. Let me assure you that I will handle Dom’s money as if it were my own.”

Diana smiled lovingly at him and stood up to clear the table. She felt relieved but would have been worried sick if she knew Marco was calculating his future profit. He felt like he just hit the jackpot. Thanks to Diana, Dom’s money was the prize he had been searching for all of these years. It was going to be his most significant achievement after all of the hardships he had endured. He refused to lose this once in a lifetime opportunity.

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